Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Logo

Education Masters Library Research: Developing a Search

What is a Search Strategy?

Searching databases in a consistent, structured manner will save you time. As your searching progresses and your searches are refined, your search history can be extremely useful.  It can also improve the relevancy of results obtained, as you reflect on your keywords and synonyms and how these influence your search results.

To develop a search strategy you will need to:

  • define and write down your research question - what is it that you are going to research?
  • identify, and keep a record of key words, terms and phrases
    • brainstorming your main discussion points to create concept/mind maps can help tease out themes and keywords
  • identify keyword synonyms, use database Thesauri or Subject Headings;
  • determine a timeframe from your research, if needed
  • consider what type of material you will include and why
  • identify where you will search for the information

 

Credit: Charles Sturt University Library, Literature Review LibGuide

Turning your research question into a search strategy

Keeping a Record of Your Searches

Good search practice could involve keeping a search diary or document detailing your search activities, so that you can keep track of effective search terms, or someone else can reproduce your steps and get the same results. 

This record could include:

  • The names of the sources you search and which provider you accessed them through - eg Medline (Ovid), Web of Science (Thomson Reuters). You should also include any other literature sources you used.
  • The search strategies that you applied when searching different sources (eg Medline, Web of Science) can be added as an appendix to your document. This provides additional detail on:
    • how you searched (keyword and/or subject headings)
    • which search terms you used (which words and phrases)
    • any search techniques you employed (truncation, adjacency, etc)
    • how you combined your search terms (AND/OR).  Watch this video for more tips on Boolean Searching.
  • The number of search results from each source and each strategy used.  This can be the evidence you need to prove a gap in the literature, and confirms the importance of your research question.

 

Credit: Charles Sturt University Library, Literature Review 

Developing a Search Strategy

Different Search Strategies